Friday, February 3, 2017

Quit apologizing

There's a lot in the news lately about the 'right' way to say you're sorry, including a recent article in the New York Times.  The reports talk about making the apology without disclaimers or conditions, and keeping in mind that the purpose of the apology is to make the other person feel better.. except that you have to be careful you don't mention that you want them to forgive you....

But there's a problem with these reports.

You see, the reports use apologizing and saying you're sorry, interchangeably.  But apologizing is quite different from saying you're sorry.  Really, it is.  I looked it up. To apologize is to admit failings or fault... it's an admission of wrongdoing.  'I'm sorry'  expresses regret... but it's regret about the situation.. not a personal admission of fault.

And while maybe it's always okay to say "I'm sorry", there are many instances when "I apologize" is wrong.

A few months ago, I found myself saying --

Quit Apologizing.  You're Just Making Me Angry.

Yes, I truly did use those words.  No, I wasn't shouting... but I was being quite firm.  (which is why I've capitalized each word.)

To be honest, even I was surprised to hear myself say "Quit apologizing, you're just making me angry". But that gives you an idea of how angry I was.

Let me give you some background, and I think perhaps you'll understand.

I was on the phone with Bank of America.  (and already, I see many of you nodding your heads in understanding.)  I was following up on a phone call I'd made two days earlier.  The purpose of that earlier phone call had been to find out why Bank of America had not produced the paperwork they were supposed to have sent, two months earlier.  Well, actually, two and a half months earlier, but who's counting.  And that earlier phone call concluded with the promise that the paperwork would be faxed to me right away.

Except that, two days later, it wasn't. So I was on the phone again.

Now, I understand that B of A has some 'image' issues.  And I can see that they might instruct their employees in the customer service department to be ultra-nice and ultra-cheerful and ultra-friendly. And apparently customer service translated all those ultras into a directive to apologize to the customer.  And I understand that customer service person #2 .. and even customer service person #1... was not responsible for B of A's failure to do what they should have done, two months earlier.  And #2 was not responsible for the fact that the remedy that #1 had promised... hadn't happened.  It's even quite possible that #1 was not responsible for the fact that the promised remedy hadn't happened. But it was absolutely clear that neither person #1 nor person #2 was admitting that they'd done anything wrong.

In all fairness to me, I didn't snap at customer service person #1.. and I didn't snap at customer service person #2 the first three times she said I apologize.  But apparently, for this camel, the fourth time is the final straw. As you might imagine, customer service person #2 intially was a little taken aback at my outburst. But habits are habits, so a few moments later, once again she said "I apologize".

Sigh.  So I let that one go.  And the next time she said it, I let that one go, as well.  The phone conversation was nearly over, and it was apparent that I wasn't going to change customer service person #2.  And, for what it's worth, the action that should have occurred more than two months before the phone call, did indeed finally happen.

Apologies are okay.  Saying you're sorry is okay.  But use the one you mean, and mean the one you use.

The recent New York Times article said, "An apology actually affects the bodily funtions of the person receiving it - blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows and breathing becomes steadier."


Frankly, I'm better off having a cup of tea.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Don't take it personally....

Sally Yates has been fired.  It shouldn't have been a surprise to her, and I don't think it was.  She was a short-timer... someone from the Obama administration who was merely a placeholder, while Trump's appointee is confirmed (or not). Even had she kept her mouth shut, and even if Sessions is not confirmed, no person in their right mind would expect her to retain her position once someone new is confirmed. This is nothing new or unusual.  It is common for a new President to clean house. Ms. Yates took the opportunity to go out with some fanfare, rather than quietly step down.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  In fact, there's nothing new about an attorney general refusing to support certain action.  The ban on gay marriage is an instance that immediately comes to mind, but it's far from the only example. As an attorney, I'm not required to follow my client's instructions if I feel they are unethical... and that rule goes all the way up to the top.

But there's a problem with how the firing was done. Let's ignore the timing, let's ignore the jokes about 'You're Fired', let's ignore some of the angry and inaccurate comments that people are making about Ms. Yates.

Instead, let's look at the official White House Statement:

Had I been consulted, I would have suggested something like.. "The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has been relieved of her duties.  Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia has been named to serve as acting Attorney General to serve in her place."  That statement would have been accurate, and professional.. and would have given Trump critics very little to criticize.  When Ms. Yates announced her position on the immigration Executive Order, she had to have known that she would be removed; it would be foolish for anyone to expect anything different.

But instead of something clean and professional, we have this childish, tantrum-sounding, name-calling statement.

Betrayed?  Gee, Trump administration... don't you think that's just a teeny tiny bit overreaching?
Weak on borders and illegal immigration?  Yeah, right...  as if that's why you removed her.. and where's your foundation for that statement?  Sounds like slander, to me.
Wrongfully held up confirmation?  For strictly political reasons?  Oh come on, quit being a baby. Where were you for the past 8 years?  Or for that matter, where have you been on numerous occasions when there's been a change in the President, and Congress hasn't been onboard?
And, I'm sorry, Mr. Boente, but somehow your kowtowing statement doesn't make me feel protected.. it looks to me like the main thing being protected is your job.

And then it hit me.  THIS is the problem...Trump, the experienced businessman, is taking all of this PERSONALLY.

I can disagree with my mother  (sorry mom!) and argue with my siblings, and when I'm in court I take a position contrary to that taken by the other side's attorney.. but at the end of the day, I love mom, I love my siblings, and I share pleasantries.. and even lunch.. with opposing counsel when court is over.
We're getting knee-jerk reactions (and tweets, of course) from President Trump.. because we're hurting his feelings.

President Trump --   debate, and discussion and opposing views... this is all a part of how this country is run. We are not your employees. We are allowed to disagree with you. And if you would quit taking things personally... if you would quit reacting because somebody hurt your feelings... who knows -- maybe you could be a decent President.
No, I didn't vote for you. But there have been many elected officials over the years who did not get my vote.  I can move on. And you need to, as well.

And hey.... have a cup of tea.. it might make you feel better.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Bottle caps, Wisdom, and Incorrect Facts

I imagine everyone has seen the television commercials for Snapple beverages, proclaiming "made from the best stuff on earth".  I like Snapple, I find their beverages very refreshing. But I have to admit that part of what attracts me to Snapple is their bottle caps.  Yes, they do make a cute little 'pop' when you open them for the first time. And after that, they close very tight. (Yes, I'm sitting at my computer.  Yes, I'm prone to spills.) And frankly, they're easier to open than the eco-conscious thin plastic caps on water bottles.

But what I really like is the "Real Fact" that appears inside each bottle cap. I often save the caps, and on more than one occasion, a Snapple Fact has led to a blog post. Sitting on my desk right now are caps informing me that the planet Saturn would float if placed in water, at one time brandy was used inside thermometers, and penguins have an extra organ above their eyes that converts saltwater to freshwater.
Today, my bottle cap said "Three out of every six Americans....."  And that was as far as I got.

Three out of every six?  Isn't that the same as one-half?  or seven out of fourteen?  

What on earth would make you say three out of every six?  Previously, when I'd written a blog post on an idea that was triggered by a bottle cap, I had never come across anything contrary to what was on the cap.  And while 'three out of every six' isn't wrong, per se, it's not quite right.

So I googled Snapple, and worked my way over to the Wikipedia site.Where I discovered that there's actually a list of Incorrect Facts  (not to be confused with alternative facts... oh wait..maybe they ARE the same.... but that's another post for another day).  The Wiki section labeled Incorrect Facts goes on to say Several of the facts on Snapple caps have been found to be outdated, incorrect or exaggerated.

Hmmm.  Outdated?  Well I don't really have a problem with that... the world is changing so fast, and I certainly don't expect the Snapple people to keep track of which bottles have which factoid so they can do a recall if something changes.  The Wiki post lists twenty-five things that Snapple didn't get quite right. Some of these, you really can't blame Snapple for.  For instance, fact #975 says that the letter J is the only letter missing from the periodic table of elements.  In 2012, the only element with a Q in its name was renamed to something without a Q.  So now, both J and Q are missing.  So outdated, I understand.  

But exaggerated facts cause me a bit of concern, and incorrect facts cause a lot of concern. After all, I've been relying on these bottle caps, I've been assuming that they're correct.  Now, of course, I have never spouted cap facts willy nilly, without doing additional research, but still.....

On the other hand, when I've done additional research, I've never had an issue with any of the facts on the Snapple bottle caps.  And even this time... it wasn't that I was challenging the information on my cap as being wrong... it was that I didn't know why the cap said 'three out of six', when the standard way to express this would have been 'one-half'.

By the way, in case you're curious, the rest of the factoid on the bottle cap was " within fifty miles of where they were born".  So I decided to check this out.. to see if this was one of the accurate, outdated, exaggerated, or incorrect facts. According to a New York Times article dated December 15, 2015,  the majority of Americans live within 18 miles of their mother.  Hmmmm, that's not quite the same as the place they were born... and the article says 18 miles, not 50 miles.. but all in all, I'm going to let this one go.  Except I still don't understand the '3 out of every 6'.

I guess all of this goes to show you that you can't really rely on anything, can you?  It's up to you to check the accuracy, and consider any discrepancies.  And while some 'facts' may be subject to interpretation, others are not.  So if I said that there are so many facts on Snapple caps that you never see the same one twice, that's probably an exaggeration.  And if I said there are only 257 different facts, that's outdated information. But if I said that in January, 2017, there are 4,159 different 'Real Facts' on the Snapple bottle caps, that is absolutely wrong.  It's not an alternate fact, it's an incorrect fact -- which isn't a fact at all.

In case you wondered, the Snapple flavor that I like best, is the diet lemon tea... but you probably already guessed that.  And now, I'll go make a cup of typhoo tea, as all this tea talk has me thirsty.